B2B Customer Service and Support Software Blog offers customer service tips for B2B help desks and customer support. TeamSupport is a web based, enterprise class customer support management system designed for B2B technology companies as well as organizations providing external customer support.
Sometimes in business, attitude is more important than any service or product. Approaching conversations with the right perspective for the situation can completely change the expectations of all parties involved. One person can increase the morale of a room, turning doubt into hope by providing a positive outlook on a situation.
When it comes to customer conversations, kindness is one of the most important tools to have at your disposal. Let’s look at why kindness matters in customer conversations and the impact it can have…
It’s able to make a customer’s day – Sometimes reading the true thoughts or feelings of a customer can be difficult. In a professional setting, it’s often encouraged to “hide” any personal or professional problems that you may have faced earlier in the day. That’s why, when speaking with a customer, kindness can truly make their day. Maybe they just got a flat tire driving to work and instead of being angry that they cancelled your meeting, you can happily reply by telling them it’s no big deal and you look forward to speaking with them. These moments of kindness and customer empathy can go a long way when someone has had a bad day and are experiences that stick with some customers for a long time.
Kindness leads to new upselling opportunities – We often mimic the behavior of others whether we know it or not. When an employee is consistently kind to a customer whenever they speak, there’s a good chance the customer in time will also adopt the kind tone. What’s the benefit of having a mutually kind conversation? With this conversational tone, it creates a comfortable discussion environment that opens doors to new opportunities. Instead of an employee exclaiming “we don’t offer that in this price tier”, they can politely say “we have that solution, along with much more, in this package and we’re willing to talk through the pricing so it works for you”. Being kind while upselling is essential to customer conversations.
It’s a value add that doesn’t have a fiscal cost – The saying “kindness doesn’t cost a thing” still holds true to this day. Yet so many businesses fail to leverage kindness as a value add for their business. It’s time to shift the kind and positive nature of your customer-facing teams into a point of emphasis for the sales team. Talk about how kindness is persistent throughout your organization, and then take it a step further. Encourage prospective customers to interact with your support team and experience the kindness for themselves. With the amount of customer interactions dwindling because of automation, the great interactions stand out even more.
Kindness makes customers more likely to reach out with a problem – We all try to avoid negative interactions and negative experiences as much as we can. By selling the kindness of your support team and encouraging customers to contact them, you’re removing the hesitancy of encountering a negative experience with your business. When a customer knows that they won’t be insulted or scolded for making a mistake with your company, they’ll be more likely to contact you when something goes wrong. This is huge in the B2B (business-to-business) world where customers matter much more to the bottom line of a business.
To summarize, kindness matter in customer conversations because it’s an affordable, effective way to keep customers happy. By setting the tone with kindness, you’ll encourage future conversations and open the door to potential business opportunities that may not exist without it.
As we add more technology to our lives to meet our business needs, the customer support software system has become increasingly essential. It’s now much more than just a ticketing system! It’s evolved into a vital supply of customer data and information.
As you evaluate your own customer-centric systems and processes, here are 11 must have features to look for in a customer support software system…
1) Customer Distress Measurement – Customer churn has become a serious problem for many companies. By keeping an eye on customer distress, you’ll be able to prioritize which customers require the most retention time and efforts.
2) Automated Ticketing System– One of the best ways to free up more resources to focus on retention efforts is to automate tasks that were done manually in the past. Support software can automate ticket routing, reminders, and much more so your team can focus on what really matters.
3) Sentiment Analysis– For those mundane processes that fall out of the scope of automation, it’s time to turn to AI solutions instead. Sentiment analysis is excellent at instantly interpreting large blocks of ticket text to understand the tone (or feeling) so you can assign them accordingly.
4) Public and Private Ticket Actions – Once a ticket is assigned, it’s important that all conversations around it stay in one place. That’s why software with both public customer interactions as well as private internal actions on the same ticket page is perfect for consolidating communication.
5) Ticket Tagging – Once the ticket has closed, you shouldn’t forget about it forever. Instead, look at how the ticket was solved and tag it accordingly. This way, when a similar issue pops up in the future, a quick examination of your tags will show you how the problem was resolved in the past.
6) SLAs – Because different customers expect (and pay for) different results, it’s important that you hold up your end of your Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Customer support software with sophisticated SLA tracking offers extensive customization and alerts to meet even the most complex agreements.
7) Unique Ticket Queues – One tactic to ensure you respond to tickets in a timely fashion is by leveraging unique ticket queues for each agent. This way, agents receive tickets assigned directly to them based on their specialties and customer preferences so they can work through them quickly.
8) Built-in Ticket Deflection Technology – Another tactic for focusing on the right issues is to reduce the amount of mundane tickets. Support software with built-in ticket deflection solutions, such as chat and self-service, work well to decrease your overall ticket volume.
9) Product Version and Inventory Tracking– All companies in the B2B (business-to-business) industry know how important it is to understand what products and inventory your customers have. By keeping this information directly in your support software, you reduce the back and forth and solve issues faster.
10) Real-time Reporting – All of the features above are great, but how can you quantify the impact of them? A software solution with real-time reporting makes it easy to understand the direct impact certain features are having on customer communication and your bottom line.
11) Mobile app – What good is software if you can only access it from a computer? You need a solution with a customer support mobile app so you and your team can view and respond to tickets on the go, as well as look up important customer information wherever you are.
We hope this list of features helped you better understand what’s in leading support software suites on the market today. These technologies are now customer information hubs and remain a cornerstone of many customer success operations around the world. Looking forward, expect even more features to be added around AI and automation in the next decade!
Too often, businesses don’t place enough value on building positive relationships with their customers. The term itself, “positive relationship”, is a bit generic and isn’t exactly easy to quantify. This means it’s often a factor many businesses ignore and takes on a lower priority over time.
However, especially in the B2B (business-to-business) industry, the value of the customer relationship is increasing. More companies are adding “customer success” teams and specialists to stay in close contact with customers. They’ve realized that even though keeping customers happy is great, having positive relationships can provide you with key information you need to grow your business.
Simply put, customers will be more honest when they trust you, and honest feedback is what you need to improve your product and entire organization. With all of this said, here are a few ways to build positive relationships with B2B customers and earn their trust…
Put forth extra effort to get started on the right foot – So many companies still pamper customers until they sign on the dotted line, only to vanish into thin air afterwards. You can’t just expect that they know the path to success with your company. Instead, offer extensive customer training and consulting until they are comfortable with your business, and maintain a constant flow of positive communication throughout the relationship. Not every time you speak with them needs to be because you made a mistake.
Do your homework before engaging with a customer – Make sure you leverage a customer database or customer support software solution to learn all about the customer before seeking out a deep dialogue. When did they become a customer? How do they feel about your business? Are there any specific tactics or strategies for working with them? This information can only help in choosing the right communication tone and path.
Always be ready to communicate how they want to – Don’t expect every single customer to love speaking to you on the phone because you find it more valuable or productive. Instead, observe how each customer prefers to interact with you (chat, email, phone) and talk to them the way they want to communicate. The customer will become more comfortable in talking with you, and then they’ll be more open to the channels you prefer as well.
Prioritize listening and learning over speaking in your conversations – If you let them, most customers will usually tell you everything you need to know to form a positive relationship. Instead of formulating a plan and pushing it on them, sit back and listen to their wants, needs, issues, successes, and more. This way, you can better understand them and also learn how your business can elevate their objectives and strategies even further.
In short, it’s not that difficult to build a positive relationship with B2B customers. The keys are doing your homework and being there as a guide when needed, not dragging them along for some pre-planned journey on your terms. Sit back, listen, and craft unique strategies for each customer. You’ll see that, in the long run, customers will value the personalized interactions and will be more comfortable providing honest and authentic feedback when needed.
We live in an era where technology is advancing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Think back to ten or even twenty years ago when you needed to get to a business meeting. You had to print out your plane ticket, rental car information, and sometimes even directions on where you needed to go.
Now, all this information is stored in your pocket (via smartphone), and technology is changing in a different way. It’s getting smarter. A lot smarter. You can not only get immediate directions to your destination, but also nearby restaurant suggestions based on your reviews and preferences… all while listening to a new song a music service thinks you’ll like.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now everywhere in our lives and, the more information it’s given, the better it gets. This statement even applies to the business world, where a growing number of companies are leveraging AI each year to make more informed and timely business decisions.
With this said, here’s more information about the future of artificial intelligence in customer support, including several processes that will change the way customer communication occurs…
AI will be able to fully gauge a customer’s tone (both written and spoken) – This is currently easier to accomplish at the written level, but it will also become more widespread with spoken words in the future. Some customer support software solutions currently leverage sentiment analysis technology to determine the tone of written messages (sad, frustrated, etc.) so businesses can better react to customer concerns. When AI for phone support becomes more common, it will also have major impact on business operations. Companies can monitor voice volumes and inflexion to determine how a customer truly feels about their issue (and what you company is doing to help). This is important information for immediately routing people that are clearly upset or distraught directly to upper-level support agents that specialize in de-escalation.
Ticket interactions will help craft dynamic communication strategies – Living in the era of the “digital footprint” can be beneficial for AI technology. With some companies now being able to see how long a customer interacted with a ticket and what they clicked on, AI can be leveraged to create unique communication strategies for every single customer. Instead of bombarding a customer with emails they aren’t opening, AI can instead analyze this information in the background and prompt an agent to call instead of email when they look to initiate communication with this customer.
AI will simplify the process of getting an issue in front of the right agent – This tactic of AI is already well adopted (i.e. chatbots) but it’s about to become much more expansive and capable in the future. Instead of just asking a customer “what department would you like to speak with?” like a chat bot would do today, AI enables support teams to take a different approach. It lets customers describe their issue and then, based on the presence of pre-defined keywords, matches the issue with what it thinks is the right department. Agents can then provide feedback to the AI system after they are done working on the issue to improve its assignment accuracy.
AI will be able to automatically determine if a customer is “at risk” – In the past, tracking the true happiness of your customer was difficult. Different agents would have negative experiences with the same customer, but there wasn’t a way to track the impact of these conversations. Now, thanks to AI, technology can monitor multiple variables in the background. For example, a customer with a high number of tickets submitted and a long average duration to ticket resolution may be flagged by AI as an “at risk” customer. Some support software solutions take this a step further by providing a “customer distress index” that visually quantifies the always changing happiness of every customer. While not a perfect science, this AI technique lets your business know when critical executive-to-executive conversations need to occur to retain customers.
To summarize, the future of artificial intelligence in customer support is bright. The technology will help improve communication and ensure that impactful conversations are occurring. It also provides businesses with more intelligence about their customers so they can be proactive and strategic with how they manager customer relationships. The presence of AI in customer support will only increase in the coming years, so exploring these processes sooner than later will only help to improve customer happiness and provide you with a competitive edge.
To deliver “prompt support,” you must manage the expectations of your callers.
For example, if a B2B customer waits for five minutes but expects to wait for 10 minutes, they will perceive this interaction as positive. Conversely, a customer who waits longer than expected will feel slighted and sustain a negative impression of the customer support call.
Aim to under-promise but over-deliver on support calls, as this makes your customer support seem better than anticipated. One way of doing this is by providing a “fast lane” for high-value customers, making sure their calls jump to the top of the call queue.
What resources can businesses use to improve telephone customer support?
Some businesses may want to improve the experience of customers calling their business, but realize that they can’t make significant improvements without assistance. Certain software and services may be able to help businesses looking to increase their customer call satisfaction without breaking the bank.
Are support staff providing satisfactory support to callers?
Which issues come up most frequently?
How are your other support resources failing to resolve their issues?
Customer support software lets you answer these questions by monitoring call information and tracking call metrics. You can also coordinate future conversation times that fit into the schedule of the customer.
When included in a larger customer support strategy, these features help you to minimize customer annoyances and resolve issues quickly to reinforce loyalty.
To summarize, B2B customers want businesses to provide quick and definitive support. Businesses must streamline their customer support calls, reduce average call time, and lessen the perceived irritation of waiting on hold. Technologies exist to further these goals and assist with collecting the data needed to optimize telephone customer support.
Riley Panko is a Senior Content Developer for Clutch, a B2B decision making company.
Sometimes how a customer speaks to you is just as important as what is being said. A compact label for this type of refined communication is customer sentiment. As more customer service software solutions are placing an emphasis on sentiment, it should come as no surprise that companies are looking to leverage this “hidden code” in communication to work smarter and more efficiently.
With this said, here are a few ways sentiment analysis matters to B2B customer service and why it’s become a focal point for many teams…
You can understand true meaning at a glance with sentiment technology – One of the best uses of sentiment analysis is the ability to get a snapshot of the “feeling of a message” without reading every single word. For example, a 1,000-word ticket is submitted to your customer service team. If the sentiment is “frustrated”, you can instruct your agent to immediately assign the ticket to a supervisor who can handle it. This saves the agent from needing to read the entire ticket and lets them focus their time and effort on solving issues within their capabilities. This is an excellent way for customer service teams to save time with AI technology.
Sentiment analysis creates proactive communication opportunities to save relationships – Selecting a software solution that provides sentiment analysis information at the customer level can be a great asset for managing B2B customer relationships. Instead of deeming a company “at risk” because one employee there doesn’t like you, take a step back and look at how the entire company feels about you. If the rest of the employees at the company had past correspondence with a “polite” or “satisfied” sentiment, then the company may not be as likely to churn as you may have initially thought. This information also provides you with a nice discussion point to have an impactful customer conversation with the disgruntled employee, letting you reach out and allude to the fact that their colleagues are happy with your business. It’s a softer way of asking “What can we do to fix your concerns?” by indicating their negative sentiments are unique and isolated.
Looking at customer sentiment lets you evaluate your service messaging and responses – Finally, a broader usage of customer sentiment is how it can be leveraged to refine messaging to improve the overall perception of your service team. To do this, examine the sentiment of tickets that come in both before and after the initial response from your team. Does the sentiment improve, and if so by how much? Is this improvement consistent across different types of B2B issues (IT, operations, inventory, etc.)? Look at the change in overall sentiment first, then dig deeper into issue types to find detailed room for improvement. You’ll notice even little things like how you close tickets can make a difference. Instead of saying “Thanks for contacting us”, being more personable with “Thanks for bringing your issue to our attention, it’s important to me and I will do my best to resolve it” can shift the overall sentiment of the ticket conversation.
Wrapping up, sentiment analysis matters to B2B customer service because it makes your communication smarter and more efficient. The technology enables your agents to make better decisions with how they prioritize their time and is a great way to measure the impact customer communication has on your business. Sentiment analysis has evolved from a fringe technology to a mainstay in customer service teams, with more companies adding sentiment data into their business processes.
In the data-driven corporate world we work in, metrics are everything. And, thanks to so many technology solutions on the market, getting information is easier than ever before.
However, getting the right information is the real challenge and what differentiates a customer support data novice from an expert. Looking at the exact information your business needs can elevate an entire team to perform better and exceed expectations.
Sadly, for finding this information, there isn’t a magic bullet. Instead, here are some tactics to consider for choosing the right customer support metrics for your business…
Make sure the metrics explain your organization – More than anything else, it’s important to choose metrics that fit your company and your industry. For example, if your company works in a fast-paced environment with a high volume of inquiries, ticket resolution time may be an important metric to focus on. For companies that stress highly detailed customer interactions, ticket satisfaction may be the metric for you. Don’t track metrics just because a colleague or whitepaper says so.
Choose a diverse range of metrics – When selecting metrics, it’s important to make sure the data you evaluate hits all layers of your business. Select simple metrics like number of tickets received that can be easily observed but also detailed customer support data points (such as average number of open tickets by customer) that drill into the details as needed. If you only look at the basic metrics, you won’t be able to see problems that are growing below the surface. However, if you spend too much time below ground with detailed data, you won’t see the full picture and miss common data trends. It’s important the metrics you keep an eye on have a blend of complex and simple.
Test and evolve metrics that add value – Tracking customer support metrics isn’t just something you do once and then forget about. Schedule a couple times each year to step away from your data and ask yourself why you look at these datapoints. Are some no longer providing value? Do they need to be updated as your business has changed? Don’t stick to a rigid set of metrics for years, instead keep an eye on how your business changes and adapt as needed. Look at some metrics you aren’t tracking and drill into the ones that make you say “I need to learn more”. Bringing in an outside perspective, such as a trusted executive from a different department, can be a great way to get fresh ideas on the data you’re tracking.
We hope these tactics were helpful in determining how to choose the right customer support metrics for your business. At the end of the day, make sure your metrics make sense for your specific company and they cover a diverse range of datapoints. If you’re stuck on what to track, a different internal perspective can sometimes help to revamp the value of specific metrics. Doing all of this will help you in monitoring those right metrics for business success!
Too often, customers rush to the phone whenever an issue or question pops in to their mind. While having customer conversations is great, too much communication can be harmful and have a negative impact on your business.
To alleviate some of this communication, more companies are leveraging an online customer portal to stop mundane conversations before they even begin. These portal solutions contain instructional guides, video tutorials, essential company information, and much more.
It saves customers time – Those same customers who called you all the time can now consult the customer portal first for an answer to their simple questions. And, more times than not, there will be valuable information there that meets their needs. It may take a while to get these customers to use the portal, but once they do the “always on” 24/7 nature of the self-service portal will keep them coming back.
It saves your company time (and money) – Employees that answer the same basic questions repeatedly feel burnt out. A simple way to make them happier is by saving their time and sanity with an online customer portal to answer all these questions. In addition, it lets your employees focus on the challenging issues that are mentally engaging and have a bigger impact on the bottom line of your business
It’s a great resource for the sales team – Showing, not just telling customers how they can answer their own questions at all times of the day can be a valuable tool to closing the deal and beating competitors. It’s a great way to bring the value of great customer support to the forefront and use it as a sales tool. See, your department isn’t just a cost center!
It's excellent for sharing internal knowledge – Having a plethora of knowledge doesn’t only benefit customers. It also decreases the amount of simple internal conversations that occur, increasing employee efficiency. Instead of relying on knowledgeable employees with tremendous workloads to answer simple questions for their colleagues, it’s easier and more efficient to leverage your online customer self-service portal to educate and share information.
It can be easily added into customer support software – As more companies add an online customer portal, even more are now leveraging their portal via their customer support software. Selecting a support software solution with a built-in customer portal enables text snippets and links from the portal to be directly integrated into tickets and customer responses for quick and easy reference.
In short, the true value of an online customer portal lies in its versatility. A great portal results in happier customer, happier employees, and an improved bottom line on your business. It can also be a great way to bring sales credibility to the customer support group as well as internal admiration with your organized knowledge.
When evaluating software, it’s easy to fall back on what you’ve done in the past. Your work computer likely has Windows and the Office suite installed directly on the machine, so why shouldn’t you have software for sales, customer support, marketing, or other industries right alongside it?
To answer this question, there are some instances where an on-premise install, or having software physically installed at your location makes total sense…
You’re holding top secret data that nobody can and should access, closely guarded by a fancy security system
And, outside of maybe a handful of other situations, that’s about it. In modern business, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), or “cloud”, solutions are now strongly preferred for almost all industries and companies. Here are a few reasons why so many companies have made the switch to SaaS…
It’s accessible anywhere, anytime – One of the best parts of SaaS is that it’s accessible wherever and whenever you want. Employees from all over the world can access SaaS solutions easily, both from their work computers and their phones, and be more efficient working on the go.
Minimized risk of physical data loss – With an on-premise install, you’re relying on physical backups that can and will fail. SaaS solutions create data backups in real-time and, should they fail, you almost always lose at most minutes of data instead of hours (or even days) with a physical tape.
Browser based system decreases operating issues – When dealing with on-premise software installs, there can be lots of installation and upkeep headaches. Joe from accounting has a Mac, while Gabriella in IT needs to run on a Linux machine. Chances are the on-premise software won’t work for them. But, if it does, both employees not only need custom installs of the software but also specific security and product updates to be installed by a specialist. Unlike an on-premise software solution built specifically for one operating system, SaaS solutions can work will with a wide array of operating systems. All you need is a web browser!
Increased collaboration – With so many fewer hurdles to get a SaaS solution up and running compared to on-premise, the last reason why so many companies are moving to SaaS is because it greatly increases collaboration. The modern business world is moving more towards online conversation and data driven decisions, both of which fit perfectly into SaaS solutions.
So, is on-premise software dead? Not necessarily, but it’s become a very niche solution instead of the standard way of doing business. A SaaS solution won’t be as secure as the very best on-premise solution – but let’s be real for a second – only a very, very small number of companies require that level of data security for their business.
Instead, the wide and numerous benefits of SaaS are far outweighing the very unique and specialized need for an on-premise solution. Companies experience better collaboration, less operational issues, and increased accessibility to their system by leveraging SaaS technology. In the future, expect SaaS solutions to not only be adopted more frequently but also to evolve and becoming an even more integral part of business operations.
Running a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company is fun. It’s usually created by a couple tech enthusiasts with a great idea and extensive coding knowledge. Getting those first few customers feels amazing, and your core focus is on making them happy. They’ve got your cell number and you’re just a phone call away for anything they need.
However, as you acquire more customers, things change, and before you know it most of your day isn’t spent improving the software. Instead, you’re bogged down with walking customers through simple steps on how to fix minor problems. This can only mean one thing: it’s time to build a SaaS customer service team.
Let’s look at some of the key things to consider when building this team to keep customers happy…
Select customer service software for your industry with screen sharing – If there’s one thing a software company knows, it’s that they can use software to solve problems. By choosing a customer service software solution for your industry (B2B – business-to-business or B2C – business-to-consumer), you can save both time and money by keeping better track of customer conversations. One feature that is a must-have for any customer service team in the SaaS industry is screen sharing. It’s an easy way to share your screen with your customer (and vice versa) that turns hours of describing into minutes of showing.
Don’t assume everyone can “speak tech” fluently – One of the reasons why software founders need to step away from being the main point of contact for customer service is communication. Not that the founder is lacking in this area, but sometimes with more customers comes a greater need to make highly technical dialogue happen in common words. It’s time to transition these conversations and look for agents that are good at conveying simple answers to difficult solutions. Let them take the complex and make it simple.
Encourage collaboration – In the SaaS world, it’s often the responsibility of one agent to make the customer happy. However, it doesn’t need to be this way. Create an environment where it’s OK for an agent to bring in specialists as needed to solve problems. Having a software engineer quickly review a ticket in your customer service software can get to the heart of an issue right away. In addition, agents that know they have people behind them to help are less likely to respond to an issue with “I don’t know” and instead can answer “I can find someone who can help”.
Cross-train agents on different channels – Even with technical products such as software, customer service over the phone remains popular. Having agents that are skilled in phone, email, and chat solutions can go a long way in reducing customer wait times and improve your issue resolution speed. It’s also beneficial as it increases the agility of your team so if email volume is high but call volume is low, agents can focus on the exact source where the issues are arriving.
Follow up and offer additional education – One of the best things about working for a SaaS company is that you can see when and how customers interact with your software. If an agent has provided a resolution but see that the customer hasn’t logged in to try it, follow up and see if there’s anything else that can be done before closing the ticket. This communication goes a long way in keeping customers happy, and it can also be used to promote other educational tools that may help, such as webinars and self-service pages.
In short, keeping customers happy as a SaaS company isn’t all that difficult once you have the right mindset in place. Start off by utilizing technology and communicate in common terms that are easy to understand. From here, work together across multiple channels and use the intelligence gained from your own software to ensure the needs of customers are being met. Keep that fun experience of being a SaaS company alive through excellent customer service!